Canada will take delivery of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks, with the goal of boosting the vaccination rate among holdouts.
A spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada says the government expects to take delivery soon of 20,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine from France. Those doses will be distributed to the provinces.
The vaccine hasn't yet been administered in Canada, despite the fact that Health Canada approved it for use in March. Just over 9,000 Canadian residents have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in other countries since June, according to Public Health Agency of Canada data.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have requested tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine to increase uptake among the vaccine-hesitant.
In a news release earlier last month, Premier Jason Kenney said some Albertans in areas of low vaccine uptake had expressed a preference for the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as the Janssen vaccine.
The Alberta government requested 20,000 doses from the federal government. At the time, Canada didn't have any of the doses on hand.
In late April, roughly 300,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine were shipped to Canada. Health Canada rejected them after an investigation because of ongoing concerns about the third-party manufacturer of these shots, a Maryland-based company called Emergent.
Workers at the company's Baltimore plant inadvertently ruined some 15 million doses of this vaccine by mixing up ingredients intended for another product — the vaccine made by AstraZeneca.
The new doses obtained from Europe "have been verified by Health Canada to meet safety, quality and efficacy standards," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said Friday.
Andrew McKendrick, a spokesperson for Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, said Ontario and New Brunswick might also want small shipments.
McKendrick said federal guidance on who should receive which vaccines and when remains unchanged. He said one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is better than no vaccine at all heading into the winter.
Isaac Bogoch, a physician and scientist who studies infectious diseases, said people should follow a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with a booster shot of another approved vaccine.
"If you give it as one shot, you certainly have meaningful protection against getting COVID-19 and, of course, having a severe outcome like hospitalization and death," Bogoch told CBC News Network.
"But if you are comparing Johnson & Johnson (to an mRNA vaccine), the one shot Johnson & Johnson doesn't stand up. Yes, there is some protection, but you can get much better protection with two doses of the vaccine."
Bogoch acknowledged that for those unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine, taking the one-shot vaccine is better than no protection at all.
According to Health Canada, clinical trials showed that starting two weeks after vaccination with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson adenovirus vector vaccine, the vaccine is 66 per cent effective in protecting trial participants from COVID-19.